When I read the New York Times article “Tobias Wong, Witty Designer and Conceptual Artist Dies at 35“, I felt sad that the world had lost an important artistic talent. But I’m also sad that the Gay Asian community has lost an impressive role model.
This story has an impact on me not merely because Tobias is a gay Asian, but because we are the same age. What goes on in the mind of a thirty-something gay Asian? I’m not going to conjecture on why he killed himself, but his death gave me pause to reflect on my own life.
Thirty-five. Have I hit the pinnacle of my life? Have I contributed anything to society? Am I making a difference? His suicide happened as I am starting this site, just when these questions have bothered me enough to do something. Where is the “Just Do It” attitude of my twenties? Do I have enough time to try something big before I hit that midlife crisis bump? This is why I have created this site.
After Tobias, the art world, and what this means to me, my next thought was how this might play to the wider world. Is it bad press for gay Asians? Although it’s hardly a fair comparison, Andrew Cunanan – the highly publicized crazy gay Asian – came to mind.
Maybe it is good press, as Tobias Wong was a very talented artist that people may not be familiar with. Then my more cynical side thinks, “who cares?” Outside of our community, are gay Asians considered newsworthy? Most importantly, do we try hard enough to do things that make a difference? Tobias Wong did. Maybe his death will inspire you to do something too.
Aric Chen gives a great tribute to his friend and colleague here:
Laura Sweet posts a good representation of Tobias Wong’s work here: